After they met on a dating app, the instant connection between disability rights activist Virali Modi and Kshitij Nayak led to marriage last October. (Image: Special arrangement)
Paralysed from the waist down at the age of 15 and in a wheelchair since, Virali Modi feels people should be more open-minded and accepting of people with disabilities when it comes to romantic relationships
Disability rights activist Virali Modi says she wishes people were more accepting of those with disabilities when it comes to romantic relationships. “I wish people were more open-minded, sensitive and more accepting when it comes to falling in love with someone who has a disability,” says the 32-year-old.
Virali, who wears many hats, has shattered stereotypes around disability one at a time. Her journey began at the age of 15 when an illness left her paralysed from the waist down. Despite fading support from close friends and constant reminders about her limitations, she carved out a fulfilling life as a “superwoman in a wheelchair” – she cooks, travels and has found her happily-ever-after with Kshitij Nayak.
After they met on a dating app, the instant connection between Virali and Kshitij led to marriage last October. Four months in, she says, “It still feels like we’re in the dating phase. Not much has changed except that we now live together with the added responsibility of taking care of each other.”
In society, marrying someone with a disability can be challenging. But, Virali says her fears about acceptance from her husband’s family quickly dissolved upon meeting his mother, who welcomed her with open arms.
“She never made me feel as if I was any different from them. She was open to learning about my disability and what my limitations are and welcomed me with open arms,” she tells CNN-News18 in an exclusive chat.
Virali says not just a wedding, but dating itself is a challenge for those who are disabled. In case of prospective suitors, people, especially loved ones, tell you to compromise and “take what you can get”.
“That perception is not wrong. The reason you think that is because your mind is so limited and closed. Open your mind and you’ll understand that, at the end of the day, we all want the same things. We want love, happiness, peace, and money,” says Virali, who had an active dating life before meeting Kshitij.
“I went out on several dates and, surprisingly, most people weren’t taken aback by my disability. It was refreshing as I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some amazing men and gone out on some great dates – be it wine tasting or candlelit dinners or playing Jenga while sipping on beers,” she adds.
For Virali, true love is about acceptance, understanding and constant surprises. For example, Kshitij’s “multiple alter-egos”, which keeps their relationship fun.
In the quest for inclusivity, Virali also advocates for dating apps to be more disabled-friendly. “By integrating accessibility features such as colour themes for those who are colour blind, talkback integration for those with visual impairment, and font size options for people with retina disorders, dating platforms can become more inclusive spaces for persons with disabilities,” she says.
As for Virali’s Valentine’s Day plans, she says, “Kshitij and I have a deal; I don’t care if we don’t do anything for Valentine’s Day but I’m a flowers kind of girl, so I expect flowers. Thankfully, he got me flowers last Valentine’s Day and he better get me flowers this time too!”